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W.Va. deputy dies in head-on crash in Pa.

February 01, 2001

W.Va. deputy dies in head-on crash in Pa.



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

see also: Burkett always wanted to be a police man

Car wreckageGREENCASTLE, Pa. - A Berkeley County, W.Va., deputy sheriff was killed Wednesday afternoon and another deputy and a prisoner they were returning to West Virginia were injured in a head-on collision with a car that was northbound in the southbound lane of Interstate 81, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Deputy John Lewis Burkett, 28, of Falling Waters, W.Va., was taken to Chambersburg Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:51 p.m., about an hour after the accident in the fast lane of southbound I-81 less than a half-mile north of Exit 3 in Greencastle.

I-81 accident siteAuxiliary Berkeley County Deputy Joseph L. Miller, a transportation officer, Gary Lynn Moser, 44, of Waynesboro, Pa. who was being returned to West Virginia to face fraud charges, and Lance S. Parkins, 19, of 151 Sandy Circle in Chambersburg, Pa., whom police identified as the driver of the 1990 Subaru, were taken to Washington County Hospital.

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Miller, believed by Pennsylvania State Police to have been driving the cruiser, was listed in good condition Wednesday night. Moser was in surgery Wednesday night. Parkins was listed in critical condition at Washington County Hospital.

Pennsylvania State Police said Burkett, Miller and Parkins were wearing seatbelts. Moser, who was in the back seat of the cruiser, was not wearing a seatbelt.

Trooper Ed Asbury, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg, said that Trooper A. Martin was waiting for a light to change while exiting the ramp off the southbound lane of the interstate at Exit 3 when a Subaru passed him heading the wrong way up the exit ramp.

Martin turned on his lights, turned his cruiser around and went after Parkins, also going the wrong way on I-81 in an attempt to stop the Subaru, when the collision occurred, Asbury said.

Martin radioed for help, extinguished two small fires in the cruiser and Subaru and began to administer first aid to the victims, Asbury said.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Chaplain B. J. McPherson was at Washington County Hospital trying to offer comfort Wednesday evening. He said he spent a half-hour with Miller, who he said was awake and lucid. Miller's wife was at his bedside, he said.

Deputies from Berkeley and Washington counties were in the emergency room waiting area.

Moser had been arrested by Pennsylvania State Police Jan. 23 and had been held in the Franklin County Prison pending extradition. Burkett and Miller had been sent to return him to West Virginia to face charges.

Asbury said Moser will remain in the custody of West Virginia authorities while he's hospitalized.

Burkett was new to the force, said Capt. Kenneth Lemaster of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department. "He only graduated from the police academy in December," he said.

Lemaster said Burkett was assigned to light duty, including court work, while he learned the job. Wednesday was the first time he assisted in transporting a prisoner, Lemaster said.

"He was well-liked and he showed a lot of promise as a police officer," Lemaster said.

Burkett was a 1990 graduate of Hedgesville High School. He was single and lived with his parents, John and Jackie Burkett, in Falling Waters.

The southbound lanes of the interstate remained closed more than five hours after the crash while a state police accident reconstruction team from Harrisburg, Pa., worked at the scene.

A state police helicopter was called in to take aerial photographs of the scene, Asbury said.

Traffic, which was backed up nearly to Exit 5 in Chambersburg, was being detoured onto U.S. 11 from Exit 4. It re-entered the highway at Exit 2 south of Greencastle.

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